OPENING SALUTATIONS

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:1-3).

Ephesians is an epistle. That doesnít mean it is the wife of an apostle. Rather, it means that it is written as a letter. We are used to getting letters mailed to us in an envelope which contains the address and the return address and the stamps. In that day, letters were hand delivered and often carried by a trusted servant or friend.

 

PAUL

It has been customary to think that Paul CHANGED his name from its original "Saul" to "Paul" so that he could better identify with the Gentiles (Saul is a Hebrew name, while Paul is a Latin name). However, I do not believe that this is completely the case. In the days in which Paul lived, all Roman citizens had THREE names.

1. Praenomen - an individual name given at birth.

  1. Nomen - a tribal name.
  2. In Rome there were about 1000 tribes which could trace their ancestry back to a common origin

  3. Cognomen.

At first, the cognomen was given as a family nickname. You know what a nickname is. A nickname is a name that is given to you to describe some feature about you. For example, when I first joined the Fire Department as a young man, I was given the nickname, "the Preacher." It was given because the people who worked with me soon recognized that characteristic. In the same way, the cognomen, usually referring to some outstanding feature in the individual. Here are a few examples...

Eventually these cognomen became family names and were perpetuated from father to son, even after the meaning of the name no longer applied. One of the most famous family names was that of Caesar. As I said, all Roman citizens possessed three names. Here are a few well-known examples...

- Gaius Julius Caesar

- Publius Cornelius Scipio

- Lucius Sergius Paulus

As you have seen in the above examples, PAULUS was a cognomen. It was ALWAYS used as a cognomen. As such, it was a family name.

Paul had both a Jewish name as well as a Roman name. He had a Jewish name because he was Jewish. His Jewish name was Saul. He was from the tribe of Benjamin and he had been named after the leading figure of the tribe of Benjamin.

Although Paul was a Jew, he had also been born as a citizen of Roman. At some time in the past, one of his ancestors has been "adopted" into one of the families of Rome and given a Roman name. Thus when Paul uses this name for himself, he is not making it up. He is merely using one of his names which would serve to better identify himself with the Gentiles. His Roman name was Paulos.

 

CALLED AS AN APOSTLE

In addition to the Praenomen, Nomen and Cognomen, the Romans also occasionally used an AGNOMEN. This would be a special title of honor and/or authority.

Praenomen

Nomen

Cognomen

Agnomen

Gaius

Julius

Caesar

Imperator

Publius

Cornelius

Scipio

Africanus

Paul also uses an Agnomen. He calls himself an "apostle." Apostolos is also the Greek translation of the Hebrew "sheliach." A well-known Hebrew proverb states: "The authority of the send one (sheliach) is equal to that of the sender." Thus authority is inherent in the term "apostle" from both its Greek and Hebrew backgrounds.

While the word "apostle" comes from the root verb "to send from" it seems to have a more specific meaning. Indeed, the Greeks of the Peloponnesian Wars used this as a military term for the admiral of their fleet who was "commissioned" with a special duty.

When used in this sense, it seems to speak of one who is sent out with special AUTHORITY. The authority of which he speaks is that which is given to him directly by Jesus Christ. He had been called as an apostle. Just as the other apostles had been chosen by Jesus, so Paul had also been called by Jesus. It had not taken place during the earthly ministry of Jesus, but some time later.

...and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:8-9).

The Lord appointed Paul to be an apostle long after the early church had been established. His apostleship was special. He was appointed as an apostle and sent to a ministry different from that of the other apostles. He was sent to Gentiles.

This brings us to a question. Why does Paul mention his apostleship? There are some people who cannot resist throwing around their titles. I recall after I was ordained and the church secretary asked how she should address me. I replied, "How about with my name?" Some people cannot resist throwing around their titles. But I donít think that was the case with Paul. He mentions his apostleship for a reason. He mentions it because his apostolic authority has been called into question.

If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:2).

Paul wants to make it very clear from the outset that his preaching comes with authority from God. The truths that will be presented in this book are not going to be Paulís opinion. This is a message from God. It has been given through Paul and he has been commissioned to preach it to the church at Corinth.

 

BY THE WILL OF GOD

Paulís apostleship was not his own idea. He did not say to himself one day, "I think that I will become an apostle." He didnít take a course in apostleship or graduate from seminary with a degree in apostling. He became an apostle "by the will of God." God chose Paul to be an apostle. God toke him and set him apart from the rest of the human race for a special purpose. God singled him out and gave him a special spiritual gift and commissioned him to do a special job.

Maybe you are thinking that it would be nice if God had singled you out and had given you a special commission and a special purpose to fulfill. I have news for you. He has done exactly that. If you are a believer, it is because the God of the universe said to you, "I have chosen you out from the rest of the human race to do a job that only you can do. You are my special person for this special job. I created you for just this purpose."

Does that sound exciting? It certainly ought to. God has placed each believer into his own special place in the body of Christ, each with his own special gift. One such believer was a man by the name of Sosthenes. He is mentioned here in verse 1 when Paul speaks of Sosthenes our brother.

In Acts 18:17 we are told that the leader of the Jewish synagogue at Corinth was named Sosthenes. He took the place of the original synagogue leader when he became a Christian. At that time, Sosthenes was leading a Jewish mob and trying to bring Paul to judgment. Instead Sosthenes himself received a terrific beating at the hands of the mob.

We do not know for certain, but perhaps that beating knocked some sense into the head of Sosthenes. Perhaps as a result of that incident he had come to Christ. Now we see him as Paulís partner in the cause of the gospel.

 

THE CORINTHIANS: RECIPIENTS OF THE EPISTLE

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2).

This epistle is addressed to a particular group of people. Though it has application to us today, its original audience was very specific. They are addressed in three ways.

All three of these designations are used to identify the recipients of this epistle as Christians. These three descriptions form a definition of what is a Christian.

1. The church of God which is at Corinth (1:2).

A Christian is one who is a member of the church of God. The word church refers to an assembly of people. A Christian is one who has joined the ranks of Godís people. He is no longer just another member of the human race. Now he is part of a group.

This ought to be manifested in a very practical way. It ought to be manifested by those believers who are in the same geographical area coming together to worship and to pray and to fellowship together. If you are one of Godís people, then it ought to be manifested by your involvement in a local church.

2. Those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling (1:2).

Paul says that he is writing to the Corinthian saints. He writes to those who have been "sanctified." What does it mean to be sanctified? That which is sanctified has been set apart for a special use.

For example, we have a small measuring cup in our household that we use only for that purpose. It sits in the cupboard with all of the other cups, but it has a special use that none of the other cups in the cabinet have. It has been set apart for measuring.

The words "sanctify" and "saint" do not sound very much alike in English. But in the Greek language they are virtually the same. They both come from the same root word. The Greeks used the word agios to describe something that had been set apart. It is often translated "to be holy." A saint is someone who has been set apart or sanctified or made holy. Thus to make something holy and to sanctify it are the same thing.

The Greeks used agios to describe that which had been set apart and consecrated to the gods. The word was used in this way of temples, altars, offerings and even of people. For example, Herodotus tells us that the shrine of Aphrodite at Corinth was set apart (agios) to the worship of that particular goddess.

This same word could be used to describe an offering that would be given at a temple. Money that was given would now be set apart for the use of the priesthood of that temple. The money itself had not undergone a physical change. But it was now set apart for a special purpose.

When you trust in Jesus Christ, you are immediately set apart from the rest of the human race to become a special possession of Godís. You enter into a special union with Jesus Christ. As a result, you share in all of the spiritual blessings that belong to Jesus.

Because He rose from the dead, you will also partake in a resurrection.

Because He has eternal life, you are also given eternal life.

Because He is the Son of God, you are adopted into Godís forever family.

Because He is righteous, you are also declared to be righteous.

Because He is the heir to the Kingdom, you become a co-heir with Christ.

In the mind of God, you were crucified and buried and resurrected and are presently seated at the right hand of the Father. You are a participant in all of the communicable attributes of Jesus.

Now I want you to notice something. This sanctification is true of all of the Corinthian Christians. This becomes especially significant when we remember the practical experiences of the believers at Corinth. As we read through this epistle, we shall learn some amazing things about the Corinthians.

Yet in spite of all these things, Paul calls them "saints" -- set apart ones. He says that they have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. Their identity was no longer rooted in their sinful condition. They had been given a new identity. They were now in Christ. It is because of their new identity that Paul could say all of these wonderful things about them.

There is a very practical lesson for us to learn here. It is that my identity is no longer rooted in my performance. Why is this so important? Because my performance will always fall short of what it should be. I am a sinner and I am going to go on being a sinner as long as I am in this life. My performance as a Christian will always fall far short of what it ought to be. What will this do to my self image and my sense of security? If my focus is upon my performance, then it will drive me to frustration. It will destroy my self image. I will end up doing one of two things.

I might give up. If I honestly try to build up my self esteem on the basis of my performance, I will quickly come to the place where I am totally defeated. That might be for the best. God often has to bring us to the place where we are totally defeated because only then can we see that "His grace is sufficient for me, because power is perfected in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Or I might try to fake it. There are many Christians who are hading behind a mask of pseudo-spirituality. The New Testament Greek had a word for this. It is called a hupokrites. It described the Greek actor who held a mask in front of his face as he played a part in the theater. It is from this term that we derive our English word "hypocrite."

Churches today are full of people who are hiding behind a mask of good works and church attendance, seeking to satisfy their self esteem by impressing other people. The reason for this is because of our tendency to build our self esteem on the basis of what we think other people think about us. What we need to focus on is what God thinks about us. God sees us with a new identity. He has an image of us that is exactly the same as the image of Christ Jesus.

3. Those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:2).

The third distinction of a Christian is that he is one who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am often asked whether it is enough to merely believe in God. It is not.

There is a growing movement in the United States that says it does not matter what you believe as long as you believe it. This amounts to a faith in faith. But faith in itself has no value. Faith is no stronger than the object in which it is placed.

Our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that He is Lord. We believe that He is Jesus. And we believe that He is the Christ. Each of these is vitally important.

 

THE GREETING

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3).

We have already taken note of the normal format for opening a letter in the ancient world. The writer would begin by introducing himself, then he would give the name of the recipients and finally he would give a greeting. Paul is using this same format in his epistle to the Corinthians.

1. The words of Greeting: Grace to you and peace (1:3).

This is Paulís usual greeting in his epistles. The only exception to this is in his two epistles to Timothy where he uses, "Grace, mercy and peace."

In most letters penned in the Greek language, the salutation utilized was the single word cairein, which means "greetings." This form of salutation is used in James 1:1.

Instead of the usual cairein, Paul uses cairis ("grace"). But that is not all. He also adds the word "peace." The Hebrew equivalent (shalom) was used by the Hebrews as the greeting at the beginning of their letters, just as chairein was used by the Greeks.

Paulís greeting to the Corinthians combines both the Greek and the Hebrew salutations into a single greeting. But there is a deeper significance than this. There is a definite order to the arrangement.

Peace must always come after grace. Without grace there is no peace. Grace is the undeserved favor of God directed toward us. It excludes all human merit. It is the sum total of what God has done for you.

This is the problem of the world today. It is trying to find peace without grace. It is only as man meets the grace of God and accepts it that he can find peace with God and then peace with himself and with others.

2. The Source of Grace and Peace: ...from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:3).

Here is the source of all grace and all peace. It is from God. First the Father is mentioned. Since the Father is positionally higher than the Son (John 14:28), He is given the first priority.

Our grace and peace also comes from the Son. This is not a separate source. It is the same source. There is a oneness among the persons of the Godhead. From this one source, grace and peace are available to the Corinthians who will be reading this epistle. The Corinthians do not deserve this. They have done nothing to earn the favor of God. That is how grace always works. It is always given to the undeserving.

God offers His grace and peace to you. You can come and be at peace with God instead of remaining His enemy. You can do that right now by trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

What problems are you facing in life? God has made provision for you. He made provision for your problems before you were even born. He made provision for them before time began. You can trust in Him and experience the resulting grace and peace.

_____________________________

About the Author

Return to the John Stevenson Bible Study Page

Have a Comment?